Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Couponing 101 - Part 1

As I was clipping my weekly coupon inserts tonight, I was thinking about the friends that have asked me to "teach" them how to coupon. So, I've decided to dedicate a portion of my blog to saving money - and more specifically - using coupons.

This first couponing post will just cover the basics. I'll delve further into the how to REALLY save significantly later on.

Let me start by saying I am NOT an "extreme" couponer. I do not go to the store expecting to get hundreds of dollars of groceries / household items for FREE. If I can save at least 50% off my bill, I am happy. Of course I'd LOVE to get everything for FREE, but in REAL life stores have line & scan limits on their register computers, limit the number of "like" coupons in a single transaction and do NOT let you clear shelves. Many stores have changed their coupon policies to no longer allow for "overage" (where the coupon is for more than the cost of the item and you would get money "back" to put towards other items in your order).

I guess if you were really "extreme" about couponing (like those people on the TV show), you could plan multiple transactions within the stores coupon policy and register limits, but honestly that would take many hours per week to plan and execute those trips to the store. Do you really want to make couponing a full time job? If you do, then go for it! But, before you decide, PLEASE consider the value of your time! Time that could be spent with your husband, your children, or alone doing something you ENJOY. Personally, I choose to spend just a few hours a week to save an average of 50 to 60% off my bill.

Along with deciding how much time you are going to dedicate to couponing, you need to decide what to do with your "savings". Many people simply end up spending all of their coupon savings on other shopping or bills each month. My suggestion, especially if you are new to couponing, is to pick a percentage of your "savings" that you will ACTUALLY save! What a novel concept, right? Think of it this way - you are already used to spending a certain amount per week or month on groceries - so that money is already essentially budgeted as "spent", right? If it won't be missed, why not take half (or more) of the savings and put it into a savings account for emergencies? For example, if you spend $750 a month on groceries normally and can cut your bill in half by using coupons, that's a savings of $375 a month. Putting only half of that savings away in an emergency fund will give you $2,250 after just one year! You can then use the other half of your savings to pay off debt (which I highly encourage) or as "fun" money!

So, have you thought about how much time you want to dedicate to couponing and what you are going to do with your "savings"? If so, you have learned the #1 "Secret" to saving money using coupons - START DOING IT! Yes, it is truly THAT simple!

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I'm going to talk about where to find coupons!

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